Redhawks Claim OVC Tournament Championship and NCAA Dance Card With 62-60 Win Over Murray State
March 4, 2007
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Senior center Lachelle Lyles (Chicago, Ill./Shelton State CC) scored the game-winning layup with 6.5 seconds remaining as top-seeded Southeast Missouri State (24-7) edged second-seeded Murray State (21-9), 62-60, to win its second consecutive O'Reilly Ohio Valley Conference Tournament championship Saturday afternoon at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville.
The Redhawks produced an early 8-3 lead in the first half behind four points from sophomore guard Sonya Daugherty (St. Louis, Mo./Hancock) at the 16:34 mark. Murray State came back in just a minute to tie the score at 8-8 with five points coming from sophomore Amber Guffey, but Southeast posted an 11-2 scoring drive that included eight points from junior forward Missy Whitney (Charleston, Mo./Three Rivers CC) to take a 21-10 lead at the 12:31 mark. The Lady Racers then closed within eight points (30-22) at the 4:01 mark by scoring 12 of the next 21 points during an eight-minute stretch, including 11 points from sophomore Ashley Nichole Hayes. The Redhawks bounced back and tallied five of the final nine points to enter intermission with a 35-26 lead after sophomore guard Tarina Nixon (Gilbert, Ariz./Highland) hit a jumper at the buzzer.
Southeast began the second half with a 9-4 scoring drive to claim its biggest lead of the game at 46-30 on a three-pointer from Daugherty at 14:03. The Redhawks continued to hold a double-digit lead before Murray State went on a 25-8 run over a nine-plus minute stretch to capture its first leading margin of the game at 55-54 with 3:59 left on a pair of free throws from Hayes. Sophomore forward Rachel Blunt (Dexter, Mo./Dexter) scored four straight points to give Southeast a 60-57 lead at the 1:18 mark. The score remained the same until senior Erica Gordian drained a three with 17 seconds left to tie the score at 60-60 that set up Lyles' heroics. The Redhawks then forced Guffey to miss a potential game-tying layup in the final seconds for the win.
"I thought it was a really hard fought game and we knew that they would present some problems on the floor," said acting head coach John Ishee at the post-game press conference. "We've made plays when we had to make plays and Lachelle made the biggest play of the night."
Daugherty led Southeast with 18 points and tied a career high with six assists en route to earning tournament MVP honors, while Whitney nearly posted a double-double by scoring 12 points and nine assists. Nixon and junior guard Ashley Lovelady (Elkhart, Ind./Moberly Area CC) added 10 points and four assists, respectively. Lyles contributed 10 rebounds and six points.
"This year is way more special than last year because I was a needed player on the floor instead of being put in the final minute of the game, said Daugherty. "I thought it was a good game and we had key plays from Missy, Lachelle and Rachel in the second half."
Hayes finished a double-double of 23 points and 10 rebounds to lead Murray State. Guffey added 19 points and seven rebounds, while junior Alaina Lee recorded nine points and seven rebounds.
Daugherty, Lyles, Guffey and Hayes were selected to the all-tournament team along with Samford's Alex Munday.
The Redhawks will now wait a week to find out who they will face in the NCAA Tournament. The 2007 NCAA Tournament Selection Show will be broadcast live March 12 on ESPN with a start time of 7 p.m.